For­eign aid cuts loom

Aid groups brace for dis­ap­point­ment in up­com­ing fed­eral bud­get

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - NATIONAL - MIKE BLANCHFIELD

OTTAWA — Ir­ish rock star Bono may be a self-de­clared fan of Justin Trudeau’s fem­i­nist for­eign aid ap­proach, but now his in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion says it is dis­ap­pointed by the ab­sence of new money to fund it.

A spokes­woman for the ONE Cam­paign, the global anti-poverty or­ga­ni­za­tion that the U2 singer co-founded, tells The Cana­dian Press that the or­ga­ni­za­tion con­tin­ues to wel­come the prime min­is­ter’s in­ter­na­tional lead­er­ship in putting women and girls at the cen­tre of Canada’s aid strat­egy.

But the lack of new fund­ing for in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment is dis­ap­point­ing and falls short of Trudeau’s “soar­ing ” fem­i­nist rhetoric, ONE spokes­woman Juliet Ve­dral said in an in­ter­view.

Cana­dian aid agen­cies say that while the gov­ern­ment’s re­tooled fem­i­nist for­eign aid fo­cus is laud­able, it must be ac­com­pa­nied by a fund­ing in­crease be­cause the re­al­lo­ca­tion of dol­lars will only end up drain­ing other wor­thy aid projects.

The gov­ern­ment has been tamp­ing down any ex­pec­ta­tion of sig­nif­i­cant new de­vel­op­ment money in next week’s fed­eral bud­get, say mul­ti­ple sources.

Louis Belanger, spokesman for De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter MarieClaude Bibeau, had no com­ment about what might be in next week’s bud­get.

When asked about the con­cerns of the agen­cies, Belanger said: “NGOs are do­ing their job. I re­spect that.”

Sev­eral or­ga­ni­za­tions are tak­ing is­sue with Trudeau’s high-pro­file an­nounce­ment last week of $650 mil­lion over three years for sex­ual and re­pro­duc­tive health projects around the world.

While the money rep­re­sents a dou­bling of spend­ing on those gen­der projects, it comes from the ex­ist­ing de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance bud­get — a spend­ing en­ve­lope that isn’t ex­pected to see a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in the bud­get.

“We’re dis­ap­pointed in that it’s won­der­ful that Justin Trudeau, like Stephen Harper be­fore him, wants to pri­or­i­tize girls and women,” Ve­dral said, re­fer­ring to the for­mer prime min­is­ter’s ma­ter­nal and new­born child health ini­tia­tive.

“What we are more in­ter­ested in is new money and not tak­ing away from ex­ist­ing pro­grams,” she added.

“So far, his ac­tions have failed to live up to that soar­ing rhetoric that he cam­paigned on.”

Ve­dral said ONE wants to see Canada dou­ble its aid bud­get, say­ing it then would cost “four cents, per Cana­dian, per day” as op­posed to the ex­ist­ing two cents.

Ve­dral’s as­sess­ment is a come­down from the adu­la­tion Bono heaped on Canada last sum­mer when he ap­peared at a Mon­treal con­fer­ence that raised about US$13 bil­lion in pledges for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, malaria and tu­ber­cu­lo­sis.

“The world hears you when you say ’poverty is sex­ist’,” Bono said at the event with Trudeau in Septem­ber. “I’m a fan of Canada.”

ONE, along with Cana­dian or­ga­ni­za­tions, wants the gov­ern­ment to an­nounce a long-term plan to reach the United Na­tions tar­get on de­vel­op­ment spend­ing of 0.7 per cent of gross na­tional in­come. Canada’s cur­rent level is be­low 0.3 per cent.

For­mer UN sec­re­tary gen­eral Ban Ki-moon has called on Canada to come up with a plan to reach the tar­get, some­thing only a hand­ful of coun­tries have achieved.

Bibeau has said it is un­re­al­is­tic for Canada to reach 0.7 un­der the cur­rent eco­nomic con­di­tions.

Lau­ren Ravon, Ox­fam Canada’s pol­icy di­rec­tor, said Canada needs to in­vest more than $800 mil­lion a year to get the aid bud­get on track, but she’s not ex­pect­ing to see any­thing close to that from Fi­nance Min­is­ter Bill Morneau next week.

Ravon sug­gested the con­tin­ued lack of fund­ing could hurt Canada’s cur­rent pos­i­tive in­ter­na­tional im­age, in­clud­ing when it hosts the G7 next year and when it runs for a tem­po­rary seat on the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil in 2019.

“Coun­tries will be look­ing for sig­nals from Canada,” she said. “It’s our time to shine. In­creased aid helps Canada do that.”

Cicely McWil­liam, the pol­icy di­rec­tor of Save the Chil­dren Canada said it is im­por­tant the gov­ern­ment wants to be a “cham­pion” for help­ing poor women and girls in the de­vel­op­ing world.

“Cer­tainly there’s sup­port rhetor­i­cally, for girls, that’s great. It will be re­ally im­por­tant for the fund­ing to fol­low that rhetoric.”

Caro­line Rise­boro, the pres­i­dent of Plan Canada, said the gov­ern­ment’s new fo­cus on women and girls is sig­nif­i­cant be­cause it goes fur­ther than com­mit­ments by pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ments to sim­ply be “gen­der aware.”

Now, she said, the new fund­ing will ad­dress the “root causes of in­equal­ity” that ef­fect girls and women: al­low­ing them to make choices around their own sex­ual re­pro­duc­tive health, re­mov­ing bar­ri­ers to eco­nomic suc­cess, and over­com­ing life-al­ter­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion against young girls.

“Our hope is that, over time, the next step will be to po­ten­tially in­crease the amount of fund­ing.”

JO­HANNES SI­MON/GETTY IM­AGES

Ir­ish mu­si­cian and chair­man of ONE Bono ad­dresses the au­di­ence at the 2017 Mu­nich Se­cu­rity Con­fer­ence Fri­day in Mu­nich, Ger­many. ONE spokes­woman Juliet Ve­dral says ONE wants to see Canada dou­ble its aid bud­get.

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